Sunday, February 27, 2011
I just finished reading an amazing book called The Council of Dads. The premise caught my eye. A dad, about my age, finds out he has an aggressive cancer and may not be around to raise his three year old twin daughters. After much soul searching he comes up with a list of men he’s known in different stages of his life, men who each live some kind of character trait he’d like his girls to find in their growing up years. Men who could be trusted to remind his girls on a regular basis, what he was like and how much he loved them. Then he called his list “The Council of Dads.” Not unlike a team of godfathers.
The thought terrified and intrigued me. I lost my own mom when she was fifty. As I get closer to that age I realize more and more how young she really was. I can’t comprehend having to leave my kids without a mom in the next decade. But it happens. After it happened to my mom I understood on a deeper level that it does happen. Even to good people who love their kids. For mental health reasons I generally try to stay away from dwelling on the concept, but reading this book forced me to face the idea once again.
It’s not a sappy book or a ‘feel sorry for me’ book. It’s a book about a guy who got some pretty crappy news and decided to do what he could, with what time he had left. And the part that intrigued me was the gathering of friends. I’ve lived in many places since I became an adult, and always found new friends along the way. With each move I reminded the kids that there was a new friend waiting in our new home state. And every time, it’s been true.
As they found friends, I did too. Each became special to me for a different reason. Each personality touched me and changed me in a unique way. I’m a different person today because of the influence this broad list of women have had on my life. I really hope I never have to create a council of moms, to pick up the slack after I’m gone. My plan is to finish raising this pack of kids who’ve been entrusted to me, then spend a few decades being a crazy, permissive grandma to their offspring.
But taking a minute to think about friends, and how they’ve changed your life, is not a bad exercise to do as this endless winter, and being cooped up for months, leads a person to reflect a bit. Christmas cards are a nice way to keep in touch, but maybe this year you could start a new tradition. On the first of each month pick a friend, someone who has made you a better person, and write them a quick note to tell them what they mean to you. It doesn’t have to be eloquent or long. Just a paragraph or two, reminding them how much your life is better because you call them a friend.
In fact this week is the perfect time to start. Friday is going to be March the fourth. A few years ago I read somewhere that it’s the only date that is a command, “March Forth!” The author of the article suggested that it’s a good day to move forward aggressively, to take the name of that date and do something good with it. So maybe this year you can use your March Forth date as an excuse to think about the people in your life who make you a better person.
Life gets nutty once the grown up years hit. Jobs and spouses and kids can soak up every free minute of every week. It’s the job of a good friend to bring us back to who we are, apart from all the complications of life. It’s the job of a good friend to encourage us when times get tricky and remind us how great life is when things are going well.
Who are those people in your life? Are you being that person to someone else? Be sure you take the time this year, to take stock of who matters to you. And don’t let a life changing diagnosis be the only thing that inspires you to tell them how important they are.
Get out a note card. Make a phone call. Heck, I’ll even let you off easy and say it’s okay to send an email (although I’m going to insist you write more than a sentence or two if you decide to wimp out in that way). But slow down, on this day that’s a command, and take a moment to take stock.
Stop all the madness of everyday life for a minute and don’t be afraid to begin a new personal tradition, and March Forth!